METALWINGS interview. New album, ‘A Whole New World’, out now.

I spoke to Stela Atanasova from Bulgarian Symphonic band, METALWINGS, about her musical upbringing, the musical ‘language’ in her home country, and the excellent new album, ‘A Whole New World’. We also had a ‘rig rundown’ with a difference. This one was about her choice of viola. This is transcript only as the timezones and availablity didn’t match up but she was most gracious to answer my questions via email.

You can find my album review here.

MAL-
Tell me your music beginnings and training (as it seems obvious it's extensive). Did you grow up in a musical family? Who would be your major influence on your music background in your life?
Are there any other musical projects you've been involved in?
STELA-
I started playing the viola at the age of 9, after which I started studying at the Music School in Burgas. There I started playing the piano too. After a few years I moved to the Music School in Varna, where I began to study opera singing. After I graduated, I continued my education, but in a slightly different direction, namely electronic music, which helped me a lot to develop and gain skills to work with music software. Thanks to this slight turn, I am now free to compose and record the orchestral arrangements for our songs myself. I separately defended my doctoral dissertation in the field of algorithmic and fractal music. I am constantly changing, but I am always absorbed in one way or another by the music. I inherited this from my mother, who was a musician and she is the reason why I am what I am now as a musician. She taught me a love of music, responsibility and discipline. Make me a perfectionist. I am never satisfied with something average - I always strive for the best and the maximum I can give, as a composer and performer. The biggest influence on my musical background was the classical music, which I studied, analyzed and played for many years, but after I started composing for Metalwings - I discovered my true self and understood what my vocation is. As for other projects - of course, I tried to play with other musicians, in other formats, but in the end, everything happened or didn't happen just to create Metalwings and I'm happy that my destiny took some things for to give me Metalwings.
MAL-
How active is the band? Not counting lockdowns of course. Were you touring much?
I did notice mention of a tour with IMPERIAL AGE. How did that go?
STELA-
The band is as active as the situation in which we live allows. We don't stop rehearsing and working. But in general for our style of music in Bulgaria, there are not many scenes on which we can do concerts. Our music has a lot strength and power and it is not good to play in small clubs. That is why we prefer to play on bigger stages when we have this opportunity. As for touring - we've only had one short so far with Imperial Age. It was a great experience and I am very happy that we had the opportunity to taste life on the road - to feel the bitter and sweet moments of being a musician and touring. It was very useful for us to understand how the business is organized - we had disappointments, but also great moments. In fact, it's not easy to do a tour, because in most cases you have to be willing to pay all the expenses, and it's quite difficult for an independent band like ours. We haven't had a great opportunity to play in the last two years due to the pandemic, but I strongly hope that the doors for travel will reopen soon, club life will return and we will have the freedom to travel and do longer tours.
MAL-
How did your festival appearance in Chuprene go on the weekend?
STELA-
Our participation in Chuprene Open Air was unforgettable. We had forgotten what a thrill it is to go out in the open air and feel the emotion of the audience in front of you. The place where the festival was held is unique in nature and we are all extremely pleased with the opportunity to play in front of an audience again. Besides, it was great to present our new album and see the reactions of the people - it was a real bliss.
MAL-
I notice that a song on 'For All Beyond' was sung in Bulgarian. What is the main language musically in Bulgaria? As in, how much is in English? And is it a language barrier problem there when songs are sung in English? (genuine question, don't mean to offend, it's all English over here obviously, but I spoke to Justine -ELYOSE and she mentioned the French/English vocals thing)
STELA-
Interesting question 🙂 I think this delicate question about English is in every country that has a language other than English. In general, many different styles are heard in Bulgaria and most of them are sung in Bulgarian, but there are many rock and metal bands that make their music in English. It's all about who you want to be heard from. We have also received a lot of criticism from our compatriots why we do not sing in Bulgarian, but I avoid commenting on such things because everyone is right about themselves. I don't like to blame someone just because I think differently from them, but most people allow themselves to criticize you for everything because they think they are experts in everything. I write the lyrics for our songs in English because I want our music to be heard around the world and because I don't want to put up barriers just to please someone. Anyone who doesn't like to listen to us is completely free to play another band that meets his expectations. I sometimes make songs in Bulgarian because I have this need, but usually these are ballads in which the Bulgarian language can be felt and experienced, as in our first song in Bulgarian - ‘Tujni Serza’ (Sad Hearts) and in the current one - ‘Milo Moe Libe’ (My dear love).
MAL-
It's good to hear a Symphonic band that doesn't sound like it is trying to sound like it came from Finland. What's your response to that?
STELA-
Thank you for this opinion. We can't sound like we came from Finland. We are Bulgarians. We carry another energy and spirit. We have different traditional music, but let's not forget that just as the Vikings traveled around Europe hundreds of years ago, so the Bulgarians had a great history and fought epic battles in defense of their lands. There are legends about the strength and courage of the Bulgarians, so it is no wonder that we have much in common with the Scandinavian peoples and their spirit. Specifically for our music - we have never tried to copy or sound like any particular Scandinavian band. You can find similar features, because we create in the same style and the techniques are very similar, but in general we have our own style and no one can deny it anymore. We bring a new energy, a new force, a new music wave that has appeared on the world metal scene and I strongly hope that soon bands from Finland will want to sound like us.
MAL-
The new album is excellent. I like it a lot and have recommended it to some friends into this type of music (you get to know which friends will like certain bands etc)
Where was the album recorded and when?
STELA-
Thank you for your kind words. The album was recorded in the studio ‘Na Vilata’, which is located in a village near Sofia. We spent a whole month there - from late September to early November 2020.
MAL-
What difficulties did any lockdown/border closures etc. present? Recorded as a band in the same area or files sent over the internet?
STELA-
At the time we were recording the album, there were no restrictions or lockdowns that would prevent us from recording, at least in Bulgaria. Then we sent all the tracks over the internet, so we didn't have any problems because of the pandemic.
MAL-
The sound of the album is excellent, just the right amount of 'polish' if you know what I mean.
And then after that when did Jens Bogren come into the equation?
STELA-
Yes, I completely understand what you mean. Jens Bogren was the equation when it came to sound. I decided that we had to be uncompromising about the sound on this album because there is so much power and strength, thanks to drums, guitars and orchestral tracks, that we just had to do the mixing and mastering with someone who has already worked on such powerful albums and has the potential to do it right. We couldn't just make the album with good sound. We needed the best and we got it.
MAL-
I particularly like the use of the viola on the album. It adds a beautiful, yet slightly dark touch to the passages, especially on the intro to 'Like A Willow Without Tears', yet it isn't 'thrown in' at every break like some bands do with violin etc, is that a conscious thing to not have 'too much'?
I'm curious about the viola equipment you use (as it says electric viola) as in type/brand (feel free to mention any endorsements if you have any) amplification, effects pedals if you use any. Feel free to indulge.
STELA-
The viola in our music is a solo instrument - I can't afford to overexpose its presence. With so much orchestration, I usually choose very precisely the exact places where the viola would sound and stand out best. In addition, I could record the viola in many more places, but when we perform our songs live, it would be impossible to perform, because most of the time I sing and I need a few seconds to be able to pick up the viola and play. My instrument is a Yamaha SVV200 Silent Viola. I don't use additional effects, amplifiers or pedals, at least for now, because it sounds great on its own. I also have an acoustic viola, which of course has a much more natural and velvety sound, but it's very difficult to use it live, and for that reason, I decided to play my electric viola entirely, using it for recordings as well.
MAL-
I notice both you and Angel are listed as keyboards on this album. What is the split? Who does what?
STELA-
Angel plays the piano during concerts, but I compose and record all the tracks on the piano.
MAL-
You're writing all the songs? When do ideas come to you? Can you 'sit down and write a song' or does inspiration come to you in the strangest times and situations? Do you then record ideas on your phone or similar and work on them later?
STELA-
Yes, I write all the songs as well as the lyrics to them. Each song comes in a different way - sometimes I write the lyrics first, then the music or vice versa. Sometimes, standing on the beach, for example, I hear a melody in my head and immediately record it on the phone. Very often I sing something to myself on the street and I immediately record it so that I don't forget it. Sometimes I dream whole songs - they sound like a complete symphony. I hurry to wake up and record on my phone at least a part of what I hear, but in most cases the dream takes the music with it. I secretly hope that in time the music will return to me on its own. But most of the time, I sit at the piano and just play the music I hear in my head. Very often it happens completely without pre-mood, tonality - I just follow the voice in my head.
MAL-
Any particular songs on the album have any stories that you can relate?
One song that sounds like it has to have a story to tell is 'Still Believe In Us' Am I correct? (The viola passage in that is beautiful)
STELA-
You felt this ballad very correctly - it is wonderful and there really is a story behind it. But in fact, behind each of our songs, there is a story. There is a story behind every lyrics you read. I always try to include in my songs as many aspects of life as possible - good and bad, light and darkness, rage and tenderness. We humans, woven of contradictions and extremes, live a confused and complicated life, even though life is wonderful and very simple. We humans are driven by many extreme emotions and this leads to all the problems today, dictated by greed, selfishness and vanity. It's no coincidence that a few days ago I was asked if they were finally killing the angel in ‘Killer of the Angel's Love’ and I answered - listen to the song and you'll find out. This song in particular is very important to me because it embodies the desire of modernity to kill the artist who carries the divine spark.
MAL-
Tell me about the slow down at about the 50 second mark in 'Wonders Of Life', that catches me by surprise every time.
STELA-
I love doing such slow downs as well as gradual acceleration, which you may have heard in the intro of ‘Killer of the Angel’s Love’. In this way I emphasize the musical idea and prepare the entry of the next part, which in the case of ‘Wonders Of Life’ is extremely poetic and lyrical. By the way, this song is very interesting in many ways, because I constantly contrast the light and the darkness in it, using combinations of minor and major. All our songs are in minor scales, but especially in this one, I finished in major to leave a drop of hope that the wonders of life are not over, as long as you have the will and faith to find them.
MAL-
Do I hear a flute on 'Milo Moe Libre' (or a keyboard simulation maybe) ?
STELA-
In fact, you hear a Kaval - this is a typical wind instrument for our Balkan lands. The performer of the Kaval in this song is called Georgi Dobrev and I really hope to work together again, because he is very talented and the sound of the Kaval is one of my favorites and I always wanted to implement it one day in our music.
MAL-
I would say that Metalwings should play sometime (if you haven't already that is) at the ancient amphitheatre in Plovdiv. What would you say to that?
(Asking because my wife and I nearly came over to Europe to see Accept play there a few years ago)
STELA-
Great idea - I like it and I think it's completely realizable. A man is as big as his dreams.
MAL-
Stela, thanks for your time.
STELA-
Thanks you for the great interview

Metalwings - a band from Bulgaria that managed to draw attention to over 28 million
musical fans on YouTube with their song "Crying of the Sun".
Metalwings is a symphonic/gothic metal band from Bulgaria, formed by the classically trained vocalist and songwriter Stela Atanasova in 2010.
Metalwings is an unqiue combination of angelic vocals, heavy guitars, powerful symphonic parts and the gentle sound of viola.
For the last ten years the band has played on many gigs and participated in many festivals in Bulgaria. Here are some of the most significant moments of the band so far:
In 2015 the band showed the world that music that is highly appreciated by millions of people all over the world can be produced in Bulgaria with their beautiful and epic official video of the song Crying of the Sun.
On May 12, 2016 Metalwings released their first EP - "Fallen Angel in the Hell".
In this EP the band presented four masterly composed songs - Fallen Angel in the Hell, Slaves of the Night, Ship of Shadows and Immortal Metal Wings. The song Crying of the Sun which was released as a single in 2012 was featured in the EP as a bonus track.
On 27th April 2017 Metalwings released their second official video for the song "Fallen Angel in the Hell”.
On 19th April 2018 Metalwings released their first studio album called “For All Beyond”.
In this album the band presents 10 masterly composed songs – End of the War; Secret Town; Immortal Metal Wings; When We Pray; A Wish; There’s no Time; For All Beyond; Realm of Dreams; one song in Bulgarian called “Tujni Serza“ and “For All Beyond” (Orchestral Version). The album will also include Fallen Angel in the Hell as a bonus track in a new arrangement; Fallen Angel in the Hell (Instrumental version) and For All Beyond (Orchestral version).
The Orchestral part of the lead song of the album “For All Beyond is performed by Sofia Session Orchestra, conducted by Lyubomir Denev.
On 1st Movember 2018 METALWINGS released their third official music video, this time for the song “For All Beyond”.
In the beginning of March 2019 METALWINGS joined European tour of Imperial Age for some shows in Austria and Romania. METALWINGS played also as a special guest at Bucovina concert in Brasov.
On December 23th, 2020, METALWINGS released their brand new single “Monster in the Mirror”! The single is mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios. “Monster in the Mirror” is the first single taken from METALWINGS upcoming album.
On 13th March, 2021, METALWINGS released the official video for “Monster in the Mirror”!
METALWINGS will release their second studio album “A Whole New Land” on June 11, 2021.
The album is mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios, Sweden. Sound Assistant Linus Corneliusson at Fascination Street Studios, Sweden.
All Music and Lyrics by Stela Atanasova. Arrangements by METALWINGS. All Choir and orchestra arrangements by Stela Atanasova.

Click to order a physical copy
Click to order a physical copy of the album.
Streaming links here
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